Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In China's papers, space launch tops NSA leaks


HONG KONG — On its homepage on Wednesday, amid articles about Chinese astronauts, holiday celebrations, and Chinese territorial disputes, the website of the nationalistic Chinese newspaper Global Times featured a screenshot from the White House's We The People petition portal. The image shows a petition calling on President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, because he is a "national hero." The tabloid's accompanying article summarizes the story but neglects to mention that Snowden hid out in Hong Kong for weeks (he may still be here). 

The Global Times' coverage mirrors how the NSA story is playing in the Chinese press. Yes, it's front-page news, but the revelations about America's surveillance programs are not receiving the same amount of digital ink as, say, China's space launch on Tuesday. And yes, the NSA coverage is critical and even a bit satirical. Back in May, the We the People website received a lot press after the launch of a petition seeking justice for a long-unsolved Chinese poisoning case. "If you can't trust your own government ... how about appealing to the White House?" read the opening of a Bloomberg Businessweek story about the campaign. Snowden's leaks, which expose how the U.S. government has been spying on the American people, does hurt that narrative (a fact the Global Times was likely aware of in covering the NSA story).

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